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After a trying morning with one of my students, I approached his desk. In a quiet voice, I let him know that I was disappointed in the behavior he had been exhibiting. At least I thought I was being quiet. I forgot that my students can hear everything I say when I am NOT talking to them.
One of the boys in my class leaned over to me and said, "What about me, Mrs.M? What about me?", I smiled inwardly. No, I grinned inwardly. You know why? Because this kid, this kid that leaned over, looking, asking, for my approval about his behavior, is that kid.
You know the one, The one at the beginning of the year, other teachers ask, "You have ___________?" They shake their heads, tell you horror stories, and/or sprinkle holy water on you.
It's funny, because I seemed to get it from all sides about this one. People telling me how horrible he was or how horrible he could be. After the first two weeks his Mom approached me and asked how he was doing. I told her that I loved him. She looked at me as if I was insane. She shook her head, "You wait, she said, he is something else."
He started acting out about the third week. I took him aside and he began to explain how he had not taken his medication. I told him his meds are his personal business, but with or without them, he is going to behave in an appropriate manner.
A former teacher approached me. "How's ____________________?". I responded, "I love him." She laughed. "But you know when he's not on his meds..." I stopped her. "I'm going to tell you what I told him, his meds are his business. His behavior will be appropriate with or without them." That ended that conversation.
I do love him, he is a joy to have in my classroom. When he started he was gruff. He didn't smile much, and he exuded the " Oh, my gosh, do I have to be here?" attitude every chance he got. But, I noticed he loved a challenge, he was curious, and he was a leader. I worked on him, not by yelling, not by asking him if he were on his meds every single morning, not by kicking him out of the classroom at the first sign of disruption, but by playing to his strengths.
Is he the perfect angel of a child now? By no means. But he isn't the child he could have been. We have signals we use when he begins to get out of control. He takes a 5 minute timeout, or gives me one, in a buddy teacher's room. He comes back after 5 minutes, ready to work, settled. Sometimes, I have to take a "woosah" before I address him. And yeah, some days, I call his name 20 -30 times, but it's all good. : ) He and I understand that, and we work together.
The other day, I had to pick up the snack in the cafeteria, while my class waited in the hallway outside the cafeteria door. Guess who I chose to "watch" my students? Fellow teachers who have experienced him said, "That's a good idea." I play to his strengths, not his weaknesses.
He is a joy. And this kid. This kid who could have been so many "not-so-good" things, is now a kid who cares about what I think of him. What a difference that makes. Wow!
Originally posted on"Diary of a Public School Teacher"